Since turning a neighborhood drug corner into a popular community food market, West Phillie Produce store owner Arnett Woodall has endured more than his share of crime while running his store at 18 South 62nd Street in West Philadelphia.
During his 12 years at that location, Woodall has heard many gun shots around his neighborhood store. And he has also been involved in several incidents when he saved people from dying in the street. The most recent incident happened two years ago on May 1, 2019. On that day, gunfire erupted in broad daylight. 25 shots were fired on the doorstep of Woodall’s store. During the gunfire, two men were firing shots at each other. One of the gunmen was standing inside the doorway of the store. He was firing shots at the other suspect in the street. At that moment, Woodall grabbed two of his customers and a female employee and forced them on the floor. He grabbed a mother and her 9-year-old daughter. He threw himself on top of them. He shields the victims until the shooting stopped.
“He (Woodall) literally threw us down on the floor and we just lay there,” the mother said. “I was just frozen and that’s why I am so grateful. Woodall was there to save us because we were just standing there when the shooting started.”
Even though the woman didn’t want to be identified, she credits Woodall for saving their lives. The mother and her daughter were there to buy smoothies.
And then there was another incident. This one happened back on February 12, 2013. It was approximately 6:30 PM and Woodall was getting ready to close his store. He heard a loud crash. The crash was less than a block away at 62nd & Market Street. Woodall closed his store and rushed to the scene. When Woodall arrived at the corner of 62nd & Market Street, he saw an older lady pinned inside her car. She was involved in a car crash. Sharon Davis, 62-years-old, had suffered a seizure while driving her car across 62nd & Market Street. The woman hit a young bicyclist before her car crashed into the side of a building. Her sister was able to get out of the car, but Mrs. Davis was trapped in the vehicle. While 20 people stood around and did nothing, Woodall acted quickly. He pulled the woman out of the burning car and within seconds the car exploded into flames. Davis and her sister lay on the ground until police and the paramedics arrived on the scene. Both women were taken to the hospital to receive medical treatment. Meantime, Woodall had passed out from heat exhaustion. He was able to regain consciousness after his oldest son gave him a bottle of spring water.
For both of his heroic acts, Woodall never received any reward or any citation from Philadelphia City Council. But Woodall did receive a phone call from former City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell who thanked him for saving the life of Sharon Davis. For his heroic act, there was only a small mention about it on a City of Philadelphia website. Despite the lack of support and appreciation from city officials, Woodall continues to push his store and help the people that need his help. Back in 2009, Woodall took a vacant lot that once operated as a spot for drug dealers and drug addicts. He used the earnings of his own money to build and open the store. He has received no grants or city support to keep his store running.
Now, 12 years later, Woodall’s tiny store front has brought healthy foods to a needy community. According to Woodall, he currently has two food banks to help him to feed many struggling families. Currently, he deals with Whole Foods and Philly Food Works to feed the community. Today, Woodall has all kinds of fruits, juices and vegetables plus smoothies made from natural fruits stored inside his refrigerators. Even though he’s in the business to make money, Woodall finds it in his heart to charge customers only a small fraction of the real cost of healthy foods. And there are days he will give away fruits and vegetables to families that really need food on the table. Today, Woodall estimates he has given away over 135,000 pounds of food during the 12 years he has operated his store.
To earn extra money, Woodall runs an access center for UPS customers. He gives customers an opportunity to pick up their UPS packages at a safe location. He has video cameras and surveillance that oversees the packages being dropped off and picked up. He runs the service 7 days a week.
Today, Arnett Woodall has a colorful commercial that he hopes to air on national television. The commercial is entitled Knorr Nutrition Hero. The commercial can be seen on You Tube and it talks about his produce store and the importance of cooking and eating healthy foods. The commercial talks about how his grandmother taught him how to cook which kept him out of trouble. The commercial talks about the love of healthy foods and the love of life. That’s what Arnett Woodall wants to teach the future generation.
During his push to promote healthy foods and heathy eating around the city, Woodall has been featured as a community hero on Channel 6 Action News, Fox 29 News and CBS-3 News. In addition to that, Woodall has been given many awards for his work in the city. Several years ago, he became angry when he saw a trashy lot at Germantown and Allegheny Avenue. Within 24 hours, Woodall had the lot cleaned up with the help of volunteers. Fox 29 News ran the footage.
Today, Woodall has offers from Jacksonville, Florida and several other states to come and run his business. While he runs West Phillie Produce, he also runs A & W Community Solutions which is a non-profit organization that offers training and job opportunities for today’s young people.
“Right now, I love my community and I love West Philly,” said Woodall. “I really don’t want to relocate. But I have been offered to run my business in other cities and states. Right now, I will keep my options open. West Philly is my home. My family is here. This is where I want to stay.”